Singer/songwriter Greg McDonald has long been something of a local hero in East Anglia, his 2008 solo album, ‘Stranger At The Door’ gained recognition from the likes of Q and Word.

R13:When did you first start writing and performing music?
Greg: Late. Never did music at school, had guitar lessons or anything. At fifteen I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had a careers interview at school where I filled out questions and the computer worked out I should be a motorcycle pizza delivery boy. In the nineties Thurston’s nearest takeaway pizza place was about thirty miles away so there wasn’t much call for motorcycle deliveries, and I ended up at the top of an office block opening the post for the Inland Revenue. I bunked off on my first lunch hour, and Suffolk being Suffolk I was forced to take refuge in the only place you could shelter from the rain for five hours while you waited for the next bus, which was the library. There I chanced on a copy of Suede’s first album, took it home, wrote my first song that night and never looked back.

R13:Can you remember/tell us about any of your first songs?
Greg: I can remember them line for squeamish line, and for precisely that reason can tell you nothing about them except that in my first few years of writing I must have written a hundred songs, none of which I could play or you could listen to today without resort to some sharp implement.

R13:How often do you have inspiration for songs? Do you produce a large amount of material that you don’t end up using?
Greg: I’m bombarded to the point where taking the bus from Camberwell to London Bridge without a pen is almost certain to induce some sort of hysterical episode. I’d like to claim credit for constructing some sort of radar system but the truth is it’s more like an oversexed libido seeing nymphs on every bike along the high street. Leonard Cohen described the process as something like songs travelling from napkin to typewriter to theatre. I never seem to get napkins so for me it’s beer mat to PC to [Cambridge venue] Portland Arms. These days one in three or four songs probably gets as far as a live outing.

R13:What kind of things do you find inspire you?
Greg: The Eureka moment is when two elements stolen from different sources collide in a way you didn’t anticipate. But you can’t fake that stuff without sounding contrived.

R13:How long did ‘Stranger at the Door’ take to write, record and produce?
Greg: It was a long dark night that began with fitful tossing and turning in the back of a Camper Van on tour with The Dawn Parade and ended in sleepless torpor above a convenience shop in Camberwell. It’s a nightmare blur of hopelessness, misanthropy and Co-Op vodka, with a few fractured frames of late night computer crashes, all night editing sessions with work in the morning, and a general collapse in self-worth. And then there were the bad days.

R13:In the past a lot of your songs have had political/social meanings; do you think music should take on social issues?
Greg: Miles Davis said all music is folk music, and it seems to follow that all music has an inherently political aspect to it. But does that mean there’s something morally servile about any song that doesn’t spell out the first hundred days’ policy initiatives after the revolution? No, no more than there’s anything lazy about a saxophone solo.

R13:Do you approve of events like Live Earth etc. where musicians try to make a difference?
Greg: Now call me a cynic, but I wasn’t wholly convinced that after being helicoptered cross continent to the next night’s hundred megawatt extravaganza Waynetta from the Pussy Doll Chavs couldn’t sleep for fretting about her carbon stiletto.

R13:Do you find it easier to write music for yourself as a solo artist or for a band?
Greg: Song writing is really a game, and for me I’m not thinking that far ahead when I’m trying to solve the initial puzzle. The pay off is finishing up with something which contains itself and is honest.

R13:Do you have a specific idea of how you want a song to sound when you start writing it or does it come naturally?
Greg: No, that’s unconscious for me ��" along with the voice the most important sound on a pop record is the snare drum, but I’m not even aware of where that will land until after the game of resolving the song’s been played out. Besides, often the magic is when somebody else gets involved and does something with your idea you weren’t expecting.

R13:A lot of your solo work seems to have been performed acoustically, is that a conscious decision in terms of style or just more practical?
Greg: Most of the songs on Stranger demanded an intimacy that a rock band would have ridden roughshod over. But since arriving in London I’ve been writing a no-prisoners route one rock record which I’ve just got a band together for. Seymour Patrick of Ten City Nation plays guitar, Dexy K of Dexy K plays bass, and Bob Halliwell plays drums and we’re gigging in May when the Reclaim the Night single comes out.

R13:Who are your greatest musical influences?
Greg: Morrissey and Richey Manic were my schoolgirl pin ups. Moz was at one of my gigs recently, drinking vodkas at the bar, which I’m not sure I can forgive him for. Hopefully I’ve got over my heroes now, but I guess St Bruce of Springsteen was holding the ball when the whistle went.

R13:What advice would you give to other aspiring songwriters?
Greg: Enjoy the whole glorious mythos of rock’n’roll ��" roads of excess, palaces of wisdom, colour, skinny jeans, flash photography, visitations of energies, blowjobs and fall-outs for what it is ��" the best fun in the world, a great fairy story and fuck all artistic use to anyone. And then get down business in a quiet room without distractions or indulgences.

R13:Do you think it’s becoming easier or harder for upcoming artists to get heard thanks to the internet, social networking and the like?
Greg: I think the internet, along with cheap recording equipment, means we’ve never had it so good. I just launched my Youtube channel with a video of my song Same Again!, shot in my flat that day, and a hundred people listened to it straight off ��" ten years ago getting a hundred people to hear a new song would have meant a week’s wages in unopened envelopes, thirty years ago you’d have been looking at pressing up vinyl records, and sixty years ago forget it. So it’s easier to get hear, but there’s the problem that music is practically useless and why should people pay for something with no use?

R13:What’s been the highlight of your musical career so far?
Greg: In terms of what I’m happiest with, the Reclaim the Night single we’ve just recorded is the most direct, effective thing I’ve done. For this record I’ve tried to work to John Lennon’s formula that you say what you mean, make it rhyme and give it a beat.

R13:What are your aims for this year?
Greg: Reclaim the Night’s out in May and I’m really looking forward to getting on stage with a full tilt indie band again for some dates round then. We’re shooting the video in Battersea this week. Loads of other stuff’s happening too though - I’m hosting a monthly gig at Proud in Camden for Leftfield Stage, writing some songs for an action movie, and I quit my day job last year so surviving keeps me honest for the moment.